Everton 0 V Chelsea 2
Drew Spence scored the first goal and Hannah Blundell the other in the dying seconds as Chelsea got their defence of the FA Cup off to the perfect, if frozen start as they beat a dour and resolute Everton 2-0 at Southport this afternoon.
Twice the game was in doubt as the Arctic weather looked to have taken it’s toll on the Merseyside Community Stadium.
But the referee finally gave the game the go-ahead, albeit knocking back the kick-off time by an hour in an added attempt to soften up the pitch.
Chelsea were superior in all departments but the rutted surface meant that their free-flowing football was out of the question and it was instead a war of attrition - which the Londoners won with a sparkling counterattack in the second half.
Fran Kirby had a a great chance to open the scoring, but her close-range left-footer on two minutes was parried away by Kirstie Levell for a corner.
Chelsea’s goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger was making her Chelsea bow following her move from Birmingham City.
Drew Spence was next to test the home goalkeeper with a powerful effort from just outside the Everton penalty area on nine minutes. Levell did well to parry that one away too.
Everton’s Elise Hughes took a knock from a challenge from Magdalena Eriksson and on 15 minutes and needed three minutes of treatment on the pitch before she hobbled off. She was replaced by Chantelle Boyle-Hlorkah.
Kirby had another effort on 25 minutes, but she screwed wide of goal a low right-footer.
A wipped-in cross from the left by Everton’s Siri Worm caused the Chelsea rearguard to panic, But thankfully there was no home side players following in and the ball went harmlessly out of play.
Boyle-Hlorkah took advantage of an Eriksson slip and launched an audacious looping strike from 25 yards. Berger however used all her height - 5ft 11 ins to tip the ball away from danger on 32 minutes.
Quite how Chelsea failed to score on 40 minutes is anybodies guess. Kirby rounded the goalkeeper, found her scoring option limited, so cut the ball back to Cuthbert. She produced a powerful right-footer that Levell, once agin did well to knock the ball away from goal and it was cleared to safety.
Everton should have taken the lead in the first of six additional minutes, but Simone Magill’s unchallenged volley from six yards out was weak, and Berger was grateful to snaffle the ball.
There were no changes from either manager at half-time.
A cross cum shot by Gabrielle George skimmed the Chelsea crossbar and the Londoners got away with a sloppy opening couple of minutes.
On 49 minutes Hannah Blundell produced a shot out of nothing from just outside the Everton penaty area, which Levell did well to tip away for yet another corner.
A Sophie Ingle, Bachmann class play saw the ball driven towards in-running Kirby, but the striker was just inches away from connecting.
Kirby was unlucky with here shot from long range on 57 minutes. It dipped just in front of Levell but the stopper, not for the first time, was a thorn in the Chelsea attack and scrambled the ball clear.
Chelsea finally broke their duck on 66 minutes and it was a quick breakaway between Spence and Kirby with the duo cutting the home side apart, Kirby elected to slice the ball into Spence who raced clear and slide the perfect right-footer past Levell and into the net.
So Yun Ji was about to come on before the goal, but as soon as the ball hit the net, she was promptly told by boss Emma Hayes to sit down again.
Instead it was Jess Carter who came on on 75 minutes - Bachmann made way.
Jonna Andersson should have made it 2-0 on 82 minutes but she sliced a left-footer over the Everton crossbar.
Adelina Engman replaced Karen Carney’s with six minutes left on the clock.
hannah Blundell tapped in to an empty net seconds from time to make it two nil.
Chelsea saw out the clock successfully and the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup will be made tomorrow evening.
Next up for Chelsea is a date, on Wednesday evening in the Continental Tyres Cup semi-final, at Kingsmeadow against Manchester City.
Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Blundell, Bright, Ingle, Carney’s, Kirby, Eriksson, Andersson, Cuthbert, Bachmann, Spence,
Subs: Telford, Asante, Carter, Ji, Engman, Mjelde, Cooper